Pre-practice activity key to Jays’ wrestling success

A piece of advice if you ever have the opportunity to walk into the Jefferson City Jays wrestling room before practice.

Keep your head on a swivel.

The Jays will be sending eight wrestlers to the Class 4 state tournament later this week at Mizzou Arena. That can be stressful. But you wouldn’t know it walking into the room Monday afternoon at the school.

They were too busy having fun carrying on a pre-practice tradition — playing dodgeball.

“I’m going to attribute dodgeball to us having a great season,” Jays coach Phil Cagle said.

If you can can dodge a ball, you can dodge an double-leg takedown attempt? Maybe so.

“It teaches them to be aggressive, it teaches them footwork, it teaches them level change and it teaches them competition,” Cagle continued. “I know it sounds crazy, but dodgeball has had a lot to do with what we’ve accomplished.”

Cagle points to Logan Coil, the Jays’ 285-pound junior wrestler who will be making his first state tournament appearance, as an example of a wrestler who has improved in no small part because of dodgeball.

“From the beginning of the year until now, you can see how Logan’s footwork and his level change has gotten better and I think playing dodgeball had a lot to do with that,” Cagle said.

And make no mistake, they don’t take it easy on anyone during the game, teammate or not.

“They nail each other,” Cagle said. “And they have a lot fun doing it.”

And that fun has played a role in team bonding. The Jays had one of the best regular seasons in the history of the program, finishing 11-0 in duals and capturing multiple tournament titles. One of those titles came over the weekend in Waynesville when Jefferson City captured its first district team crown since 2004.

The Jays finished with 154 points, three better than runner-up Waynesville and 3.5 more than Rock Bridge.

“Both of those teams have some really good kids, but we won the district championship because we have a team,” Cagle said. “The kids that didn’t finish in the top four and qualify for state all helped our team by winning matches.”

Zach Benges at 113 pounds, Tanner Irwin at 152, Devin Miller at 160 and Rashaun Woods at 182 all won at least one match and the team points that went along with the victories.

“They were all very important for us,” Cagle said.

The Class 4 state tournament will begin at 5 p.m. Thursday.

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